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DkIT Researchers Highlight Role of Louth Musicians in Transatlantic Popularity of Irish Music

13 December 2023

Dundalk Institute of Technology Researchers Dr Adèle Commins and Dr Daithí Kearney have published an article in the latest issue of the international academic journal, Ethnomusicology Forum which is focused on perceptions of Irish traditional music in the USA during the 1970s. Two decades before Riverdance, they concentrate on a period when Irish traditional music was emerging into a commercial, professional world and the understanding of what Irish traditional music was amongst American audiences of the time.

Drawing on their own experiences of learning Irish traditional music, they have brought together their research on the Siamsa Céilí Band from Dundalk and Siamsa Tíre, the National Folk Theatre of Ireland, which is based in Kerry. Adèle learned piano accordion from Rory Kennedy, leader of the Siamsa Céilí Band, while Daithí performed for over a decade with Siamsa Tíre.

The article reflects on tours by both groups, as well as the band The Chieftains, in the early 1970s, which paved the way for more extensive developments. The Siamsa Céilí Band were part of the first official tour by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann to the USA in 1972, highlighting their prominence at the time – they were All-Ireland Senior Céilí Band champions from 1967-1969 and contributed immensely to the musical life of the region.

Commins and Kearney also draw on archival sources and newspaper reports to reflect on the impact of The Troubles on how the musical groups were received in the USA.

Reflecting on the process, Daithí remembered,

“Growing up, I heard stories from older members of the Siamsa Tíre group about the tour to America and it inspired me. My research has enabled me to explore this and share it back with members of the community”.

Equally, the research has a strong personal connection for Adèle, she added,

“Rory Kennedy, Brendan Gaughran, Pauline White and Kevin O’Callaghan were musical giants when I was young and their relatives have been generous in sharing their memories and some of the mementos from the 1972 tour.”

Ethnomusicology Forum is the academic, refereed journal of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology and seeks to provide a dynamic forum for the presentation of new thinking in the field of ethnomusicology.

The article is freely accessible thanks to an agreement with publishers Taylor and Francis involving DkIT and other Irish universities. This makes the research more widely available beyond academic audiences.

DkIT Librarian Frank Brady noted,

“The recent NTUTTOR funding for the TU/IoT Library sector has enhanced the connection of Dundalk Institute of Technology academics and researchers to access Open Access opportunities, allowing their research more visibility, transparency and access for all society to view. It places DKIT on an equal platform to all higher education institutes in the country.”

The article can be accessed here (DkIT Library)

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